Carbon Literacy Training

Local Gov't • South Hams, Torbay, West Devon

West Devon Borough Council is committed to ensuring the impacts of climate change are well understood by staff and that they are equipped with the knowledge and confidence to enact change in their service areas where they can.

West Devon Borough Council's story

Improving the carbon literacy and understanding of climate change amongst members and officers at Councils can make an important contribution to realising net zero targets. We knew that actions taken by just a few officers/members will not deliver carbon neutrality on their own, rather a new culture across organisations is needed.

West Devon Borough Council, South Hams District Council and Torbay Council were all considering ways to embed the Climate Emergency in their organisations and were having individual discussions with the Carbon Literacy Project about options for training at similar times.

We knew that we needed staff to understand how they can start to take action and feel empowered to do so. This would result in more staff embedding action across the council and working towards meeting net-zero priorities. We decided to allocate training slots to senior members of staff but because of this we knew diary availability would be a challenge.

Firstly, we had to understand what options for training were out there. These were: climate change/climate emergency officers at each council to develop their own training using the Carbon Literacy Local Authority Toolkit; climate change/climate emergency officers at each council to develop their own bespoke training programme; using a training provider; how best to engage senior staff members and get them to sign up to sessions.

The first two options would result in a significant resource requirement for individual climate officers to undertake, using a training provider on the other hand would require a range of cost implications.

Noting that officer time was constrained a training provider appeared to be the only option. However, after researching options, it appeared that arranging training for larger cohorts could be an attractive option, and Speak Carbon were chosen to deliver it. South Hams, West Devon and Torbay are well positioned, with Torbay and South Hams being neighbouring authorities and South Hams and West Devon sharing a staff base, so collaborating on Carbon Literacy Training would not only be cost effective, but mixing staff together would have the potential benefit of improving cross boundary working.

To encourage senior staff to sign up, Climate Officers presented the options to their leadership teams and cabinet member, help them understand the benefits of Carbon Literacy Training, this buy in from directors meant that it was easier to position the training as a priority.

As a result, 48 senior officers are now fully aware of the climate emergency and identifying ways to address it for their Council; the arrangement has led tailored sessions where officers from all three councils were mixed together, creating a better understanding of the issues and opportunities for tackling climate change; and there are greater cross directorate and cross organisation collaborations with new actions that will form part of all participating authorities ongoing.

Useful learnings from West Devon Borough Council

Dealing with a larger cohort of senior level staff meant that availability was the biggest issue, we learnt over time that it was better to run two separate doodle polls and use the combined data to create three, two-hour sessions.

There were drop outs over time due to diary and pressure conflicts but a way around this is to have mop up sessions at the end for those who missed out to participate. Word of mouth across the organisation increase as trainees started their sessions resulting in better engagement from other members of staff who hadn't yet booked onto the training and the mop up sessions had full attendance.

West Devon Borough Council's metrics

Number of pledges made during training.
How effectively the organisation handles the climate emergency.
Deliverables in specific service areas.

Feeling inspired? Discover more about this story...

Response to climate crisis

Mitigation & Adaptation




Local Gov't, 250 to 10,000 people

Shared by

South West Net Zero Hub

Updated Mar, 2024

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